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Massive Predictions: Portland Timbers at Columbus Crew SC

Crew SC return home, but does that mean three points?

MLS: Portland Timbers at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, it’s a rematch of the 2015 MLS Cup Final. At the same venue. You already know that. What you may not know is how Saturday’s game between Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers is going to go.

We’re here to tell you, sort of (maybe).

Crew SC enters the fourth match of the season with a rather average 1-1-1 record. The last time the Black & Gold played at MAPFRE Stadium was opening day and the result was an average 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire.

Something to note though, Columbus did earn the team’s first win of the year last weekend, defeating D.C. United 2-0 at RFK Stadium thanks to penalty kicks from Federico Higuain and Ola Kamara.

The word uncertain seems to be a common one when talking about Crew SC to begin 2017.

The Timbers, on the other hand, have looked rather certain in their first three matches. Certain to win that is. It was a cakewalk 5-1 win over Minnesota United to open the year, a 1-0 victory on the road over a 10-man LA Galaxy the next week and last match, a 4-2, come-from-behind win over the Houston Dynamo at home.

Both teams starting 11 will be a bit depleted this week. For the Black & Gold, left back Jukka Raitala is away on international duty, while Portland deals with the same issue but doubled. Darlington Nagbe and David Guzman are both with their respective national teams as well.

It should be an interesting match. Let’s see what our staff believes this one will look like.

Patrick Murphy

I’m torn on my feelings on the Timbers. They are rather fun to watch at times (game one and three), but in their one road game were the lesser of the two teams and the Galaxy played with 10 men for most of the match.

Either way, three wins out of three is impressive, especially for a side that’s never accomplished that in MLS before. Ten goals for and only three against is hard to argue with as well.

With that said, I like Crew SC in this one. I don’t think there’s any revenge factor here, as both teams have changed in a little over a year, but I do think there’s incentive for the Black & Gold to come out and look good. What formation Gregg Berhalter goes with will be interesting (that will likely be a question all year) after the success of the three-man backline last week.

Portland is without two key players in Darlington Nagbe and David Guzman, which I think is a big boost for Columbus. I will be keeping a close eye on the battle between Fanendo Adi and Jonathan Mensah while also watching Timbers Designated Player Sebastian Blanco quite a bit.

Like I said, I like the home side to keep the momentum of last week’s win rolling.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Portland Timbers 1

Kris Landis

Portland have been scoring goals left, right, and center so far this year, and that's going to be the big trouble for Crew SC on Saturday. Despite getting their first win of the season, the Black & Gold still have a lot of work to do to get themselves in to the "elite" conversation, and coming up against an offensive juggernaut this early in the season isn't going to help them. Portland obviously know how to beat Crew SC, as MLS Cup 2015 and opening day last season show, and I don't think they're going to stray from what won them those matches. It'll be another high press, and another onslaught of offense. I don't see Crew SC being able to cope, regardless of what formation and lineup they send out. Columbus’ only real chance of getting anything out of this one is surviving the inevitable early storm without conceding, settling in, and hoping to create a goal before conceding one. Even then, though, Portland have shown they have the composure to keep playing and get back in to the game, so I expect this one ends up as a bad night for the home team.
Portland Timbers 3 Columbus Crew SC 1

Guilherme Torres

This match will be a tough one for Crew SC as the Timbers are considered by many the best team of the MLS season so far. However, they will be considerably shorthanded for this game, with defenders Liam Rigdewell and Vytas sidelined by injuries and midfielders David Guzman and Darlington Nabge out on international duty.

Crew SC thrived playing under the 3-4-2-1 system last week in D.C., but that formation could give Diego Valeri, Diego Chara and Sebastian Blanco too much space in the middle, so I expected Gregg Berhalter to make some adjustments on it. Finally, I believe it's going to be an even and fun match at MAPFRE Stadium.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Portland Timbers 1

Josh Enke

I'll be heartbroken if Columbus doesn't win this one. Every supporter knows the emotional baggage a match like this carries. I won't even get into it. Suffice to say, 2015 hurt.

The Timbers haven't been back since. The Crew traveled out to the Pacific Northwest to open last season. Portland took the points, however, the Black & Gold did leave with a nice highlight: Federico Higuain's bicycle kick. Apart from that, there's still a wound, and it's festering. Gangrene will set in if the guys don't find a win against them this weekend.

Caleb Porter's boys have come out strong to start the season so don't expect a performance lapse while in Columbus.

The fan side of me wants to see Berhalter's fresh 3-4-2-1 again, but I'm thinking he may flip back to his comfortable 4-2-3-1. No matter the formation, chemistry between goalkeeper Zack Steffen and his backline will be an imperative.

On the sidelines, Porter and Berhalter are two exciting young managers who have already made an impact to MLS in their brief tenures. They're both confident, stubborn, and have high ambitions for their small market teams.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Portland Timbers 1

Collin Johnson

Portland have opened the season at a torrid pace, scoring 10 goals and securing all nine points available. Meanwhile, Columbus have only scored two goals from the run of play. Crew SC have been a little unlucky not to score more, but at some point bad luck either changes or becomes the reality. Darlington Nagbe's absence should be a benefit to Crew SC but the Timbers still have a ton of offensive weapons.
Portland Timbers 2 Columbus Crew SC 1

Josh Mlot

Things were better last week, but the 2-0 score line didn't necessarily reflect the balance of the game. So Portland scares me this week. And it should scare everyone. The absence of Darlington Nagbe is a welcome one for Columbus fans, but the Timbers still have plenty of firepower. They're great in transition and Fanendo Adi is a beast in holdup or facing goal. But I think there are enough questions defensively that Crew SC can find the back of the net. My gut tells me this is a game where CCSC can really MLS Portland and grab a win. But they may be my optimism. I'll go draw, with the home factor being enough to garner a point.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Portland Timbers 2

Ralph Schudel

Having some time to process my initial prediction on the podcast this week, I think my thoughts need to be revised. This game still is going to be a cagey affair between two hungry sides. It will also serve as a great early season test for Crew SC. I believe we will see the modified 3-5-2 again and have some success, but the Portland attack will be overwhelming even with the absence of Darlington Nagbe.

Unfortunately, history will repeat itself.
Portland Timbers 2 Columbus Crew SC 1

Patrick Guldan

Crew SC have an excellent chance with Portland missing some key midfield pieces. Fanendo Adi is exceptionally dangerous and will be too much for one defender to handle on his own and that’s where the mobility and physicality of Jonathan Mensah will help. However the best way to handle Adi is to reduce his chances and Columbus has a good chance as Portland will miss the little things Darlington Nagbe is able to do to make the Timbers offense run at full speed.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Portland Timbers 1

You’ve heard our predictions, now give us yours. How do you see this match playing out? Let us know in the comments below.